Pirates not hamstrung by key suspensions

MXOLISI Macuphu of Royal AM challenged by Fortune Makaringe of Orlando Pirates during a DStv Premiership match. | BackpagePix

MXOLISI Macuphu of Royal AM challenged by Fortune Makaringe of Orlando Pirates during a DStv Premiership match. | BackpagePix

Published Apr 28, 2024


EVEN without three key players, Orlando Pirates go into the game against Royal AM as favourites at the Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg tomorrow afternoon.

Goalkeeper Sipho Chaine, defender Deon Hotto and midfielder Miguel Timm are all serving suspensions, but their Spanish coach Jose Riveiro is confident that his squad’s depth will suffice.

“I have 38 players in the squad and 80% of them are available to play at any moment,” said Riveiro.

“We have many players ready to go and everybody is going to be needed in the last part of the season.

“If we get a yellow, we get a yellow; if it’s the fourth one, it’s the fourth one. We go to the next player.”

Pirates will be targeting three consecutive wins for only the second time this season. They have won three of their past five encounters, with back-to-back victories against Golden Arrows (7-1) and AmaZulu (1-0). They are one point above Sekhukhune United in third spot.

Provided Pirates’ defence can contain Royal AM’s attacking threat, the Buccaneers should continue with their winning run and remain Stellies’ closest challengers for the CAF Champions League berth.

Thwihli Thwahla finds themselves three points shy of the top eight in 12th place after playing out to a 1-1 draw with Arrows in Hammarsdale last Saturday.

All eyes will be on Pirates’ leading striker Tshegofatso Mabasa. He did not spend the first six months of the season at Pirates as he went on loan to Moroka Swallows, where he netted six times.

He returned in January and has been a revelation since, not just with his goals but also his hold-up play as a No. 9 targetman striker. He has scored eight goals in eight starts for the Buccaneers since his return, so has had 14 in 18 starts for both Soweto sides.

Mabasa will be massive for them in these closing weeks of the season.

Riveiro is pleased that his side has struck some form with 21 goals scored in seven games.

“We need to win games, week in, week out; we need to do it in the way we want to do it, playing the football that we want to play and everything else is a consequence,” said Riveiro.

“We don’t play for the result, it’s a consequence of doing things better than the opponent in our way and recently we managed to do it – in most of the minutes of the game, in most of the phases of the game, that’s where we are getting results.

“Everybody wants to play and get results; everybody needs good results. We want to do it in a way, right now we’re close to the team we want to be in the next months, the future, in the next season – but there’s still big room for improvement.

“We take game after game, one by one, now we need to recover and Royal AM, three days later we travel to Cape Town and then we have a semi-final. There’s no time to feel so great right now because football is always about the next game.”